Going into their game on Saturday night, the Arizona Coyotes had lost sixteen of their last seventeen games. With just seven games left in their season, there was an urgency to finish off the season on a winning streak, but unfortunately that did not come to fruition against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Goaltenders worst nightmare
Any team facing the Penguins knows that not only does their offense need to be solid, but goaltending needs to be flawless. Sidney Crosby not only can score goals like a superstar, but he can set them up like nobody’s business. His assist on what you might call the only “true goal” of the game just goes to show how he is the real deal. Crosby had an assist and an empty-net goal in Saturday nights game.
“It was a good faceoff play, a good tip.” Said Captain Crosby on his goal assist. “The way Smith was playing tonight was pretty solid, he made some good saves. You got to get traffic and it’s tough to stop a tip like that.”
Mike Smith made a solid effort, but his one mistake cost the Coyotes an odd goal. In the second period, during a Penguins power play, Smith went to play the puck and passed it to an awaiting Penguins-Brandon Sutter– who was conveniently in front of the net. This was the Penguins first goal of the game, and their only goal on the power play.
“That one is on me. It was just a bad decision at a bad time in the game.” Said Smith on the Sutter goal.
Unexpected offense consistency
It’s no secret that the Coyotes lack immensely in offense, but when a defenseman leads your whole team in goals, and has less than twenty, it’s pretty indicative of just how much they are struggling. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes leading goal scorer leads the entire National Hockey League in goals by a defenseman. The 23-year old has had the best season of his career beating his previous career high of 15.
“OEL” isn’t the only one who has been a big factor, but 22-year old Tobias Rieder has also been as machine. Short-handed goals seem to be his specialty, but breakaways are a close second. He plays with an intelligence of the game that surpasses the expectations of a rookie. His speed is one of his best attributes, but his ability to read the puck is beyond belief. He’s scored 12 goals this year, but is consistently contributes in times of need.
“I was just trying to get myself open and if he (David Moss) shoots it I’m in a great spot for a rebound and if he passes it like he did and made a great play, I just had to put it in.” Said Rieder on his goal.
Too many penalties
The Coyotes were able to kill all penalties but one (the strange Sutter goal), but the fact that they are getting themselves in situations where they are getting so many penalties is getting them stuck in sticky situations. The penalty kill unit has proven itself to be effective, and the goal scored on the Penguins power play had nothing to do with the performance of this special team. The fact of the matter is, when you give a team with offensive power five chances to have the man advantage, you are completely backing yourself against a wall.
The effort that they put into the penalty kill Saturday night was impeccable and coach Dave Tippett knows what he is doing when he sends the special teams out on that ice. The short handed goal by Rieder is evidence of how impressive it truly is.
Things to know
- Justin Hodgman was recalled on an emergency basis after Martin Erat was injured in a previous game.
- The Coyotes face off against the Vancouver Canucks on March 22 at 5 p.m. at Gila River Arena.